Rustlers Target India's Sacred Cows

As meat consumption rises, so does black market beef
By Ruth Brown,  Newser Staff
Posted May 27, 2013 3:23 PM CDT
Rustlers Target India's Sacred Cows
Hindu devotees pray to a cow on “Somvati Purnima” or a full moon day that falls on a Monday at Sangam in Allahabad, India.   (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)

(Newser) – Cows are famously regarded as "sacred" in the Hindu faith, and as such, killing cows is illegal in much of India. But as the country increasingly develops a taste for beef, a black market of illegal slaughterhouses is also growing, and alongside it, cattle rustlers are stealing more and more cows to feed demand, the New York Times reports. In the state of Andhra Pradesh alone, officials estimate there are 3,100 illegal slaughterhouses.

Each stolen cow fetches 5,000 rupees, or about $94, and police say the outlaws are ruthless in securing their bounties and undeterred by jail. Police arrested 150 rustlers in Delhi last year. "Even if they’re sent to jail, they come out in 10 to 15 days and commit the same crimes again," says a local man. But the market for illicit meat doesn't look to be going away anytime soon: meat consumption in India grew 14% from 2010 to 2012, and it's now the world's largest dairy and cattle producer. "Cows are all about business and money now, not religion," says an animal welfare activist. (Read more cows stories.)

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